Harlequinade

Harlequinade is a British comic theatrical genre, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "that part of a pantomime in which the harlequin and clown play the principal parts". It developed in England between the 17th and mid-19th centuries. It was originally a slapstick adaptation or variant of the Commedia dell'arte, which originated in Italy and reached its apogee there in the 16th and 17th centuries. The story of the Harlequinade revolves around a comic incident in the lives of its five main characters: Harlequin, who loves Columbine; Columbine's greedy and foolish father Pantaloon (evolved from the character Pantalone), who tries to separate the lovers in league with the mischievous Clown; and the servant, Pierrot, usually involving chaotic chase scenes with a bumbling policeman.

An 1890 bookcover showing the harlequinade characters

Originally a mime (silent) act with music and stylised dance, the harlequinade later employed some dialogue, but it remained primarily a visual spectacle. Early in its development, it achieved great popularity as the comic closing part of a longer evening of entertainment, following a more serious presentation with operatic and balletic elements. An often elaborate magical transformation scene, presided over by a fairy, connected the unrelated stories, changing the first part of the pantomime, and its characters, into the harlequinade. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, the harlequinade became the larger part of the entertainment, and the transformation scene was presented with increasingly spectacular stage effects. The harlequinade lost popularity towards the end of the 19th century and disappeared altogether in the 1930s, although Christmas pantomimes continue to be presented in Britain without the harlequinade.


Share this article:

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Harlequinade, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.